Colts’ Game Plan: Shut Down Brandon Marshall
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By Adam Hoge-
HALAS HALL (CBS) New Bears general manager Phil Emery spent the offseason getting Jay Cutler more weapons. Now that he has them, it’s up to the rest of the league to stop them.
That will be the Indianapolis Colts’ task Sunday at Soldier Field and new head coach Chuck Pagano knows it won’t be easy. On a conference call with the Chicago media Wednesday, he called Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall a “game-wrecker”, meaning he has the ability to change a game on any given play.
The last time Marshall faced the Colts — in 2009 with Denver — the receiver hauled in 21 catches. Asked Wednesday what he remembered about that performance, Marshall said: “We lost.”
The Colts will look to stop Marshall first and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said he has talked to his star wide receiver about the attention he’ll get this week.
“I told Brandon, you might get two balls this game,” Cutler said. “I don’t know. They might double-team him and play quarters over the side and make us throw it to Alshon, Devin and Earl and those guys. I mean, that’s what I would expect.”
Marshall acknowledged the challenge, but added that it will be tough for the Colts to double-team him with all the other receiving options the Bears have, including running back Matt Forte.
“There’s no coverage out there I haven’t seen,” Marshall said.
Kick To Hester?
Pagano gave mixed messages about whether or not the Colts will kick to Devin Hester.
“You’d like to say we don’t have to punt, but I’m afraid that’s probably not going to happen,” Pagano said. “We’re going to have to kickoff to the guy and we’re going to have to punt to the guy.”
The Colts coach then called Hester “arguably the best in the history of the game” and said:
“If we don’t have to kick to him, certainly we’ll try not to.”
Preparing For Urlacher To Play
Brian Urlacher has been vowing to play against the Colts for weeks. Naturally, Pagano is preparing as if the middle linebacker will be out there.
“We expect him to play,” he said.
While Bears fans are eager to see what Brandon Marshall and a revamped Bears offense can do, the country will have its eyes on the debut of Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.
Luck was considered the no-brainer No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft for more than a year — even before he decided to return to Stanford for an extra season in 2011.
Most are assuming Luck will step in and guide the Colts offense much like Peyton Manning did for so many years, but he was quick to point out Wednesday: “I haven’t done anything on the field yet.”
The Colts fully expect Luck to have a good season, but they aren’t forgetting he’s still a rookie.
“We expect him to play well and play at a high level,” Pagano said. “Certainly we know there are going to be some mistakes made, he’d be the first one to tell you that. He holds himself to a high standard as well his teammates so I expect him to come in and play well.”
Luck will try to attack a banged up Bears secondary, but assuming Brian Urlacher is back on the field, the Bears linebacker group plans on giving the rookie a rude welcome to the NFL.
Freeney Makes Big Move In 3-4
After last year’s brutal performance by the Colts defense, Pagano came in and switched to a 3-4 this year. That switch included a big change for Dwight Freeney, who moved from defensive end to outside linebacker.
“He’s done an outstanding job, especially for a guy that’s had his hand in the dirt for so many years,” Pagano said about Freeney. “He lined up at one spot coming off the edge and being the player that he’s been for so long, he spent his entire offseason here learning the new system – terminology, calls, things like that. So he’s done a little bit of this in his past so it wasn’t entirely foreign to him. He’s a really bright guy. He understands football, he gets football, so the transition has been smooth because of the time he has put in.”
Cutler said Freeney probably prefers to have his hand on the ground, but he fully expects to see the elite pass rusher blitz frequently Sunday.
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.